Not All Links Are Created Equal

Stan James, CTO of Lijit, has been on a blogging tear. His most fascinating recent post is titled, "Not all links are created equal." He delineates three distinct kinds of links on the web:

1) The Pointer Link

This is the link we all think of, the link that was envisioned back when they were called "hyperlinks". It’s basically a citation, like an footnote from an academic journal.

English translation: I examined the exact content I am now pointing to, and I found it to be worthwhile. It’s worthwhile to go there.

2) The Subscribe/Friend/Trust Link

These links are the hallmarks of RSS and social networks. These links are not endorsements of the exact content pointed to, but of the author or creative source represented by the link.

English translation: I often examine content that comes from this source, and I find it to be worthwhile. Further content from this source is probably also worthwhile.

Note that this type of link talks not only about past content from the author, but is also a prediction that future content will also be worthwhile. (As Seth once said about subscriptions, it’s a promissory note for attention that will be paid in the future.)

3) Identity Link

These links are maybe the newest to grow in importance. With the proliferation of content creating platforms, it’s becoming more difficult to tie your online identity together. People must now create "identity indexes" that list who they are on different services.

English translation: "I create the content at this source, and take full responsibility for it."

Stan then predicts the next kind of link will be an "anti-link":

If I had to bet, I’d say the next important step in linking will be anti-links. In the real world, you also often recommend against things and clarify who you are not. For example:

  • "Did you hear that Mary is now into multilevel marketing?"
  • "Scrubs used to be funny, but now it sucks."
  • "My name is Michael Bolton. … No, not the singer."

There are only a few parallels to this in the online world.

  • rel="nofollow" : This microformat in a link indicates that the author does not endorse what is pointed to. It was developed to solve the problems of links in blog comments. If a commented leaves a link, the author of the blog does not want to endorse whatever the commenter linked to. (Okay, not really an anti-link, more of an un-link.)
  • rev="vote-against" : This microformat in a link indicates that the author activly recommends against what is pointed to. It is not really supported, however.  (Except by Lijit!)

4 Responses to Not All Links Are Created Equal

  1. Zoli Erdos says:

    I almost tried Lijit. Almost, because for now it misses a crucial feature: the ability to define the personal network whose opinion I really care about.

    The new blogroll crawling shows they are moving in the right direction… but blogrolls are often not updated, are a subset of what we really read, and many bloggers dropped them entirely. What would make this complete (?) is the ability to upload an OPML file of my entire feed.

    I tried to leave a comment on the Lijit blog, but it got swallowed somewhere. I’m sure Stan will read it here :-)

  2. Stan James says:

    Thanks Zoli, I read it here! I’ll look into problems on the Lijit blog. It needs some sprucing up.

    Seems again our problem is communicating what Lijit *can* do. You can add a link to an OPML feed as part of your content.

    While we should support the ability to upload an OMPL *file*, this method captures only a one-time snapshot of your subscriptions. What you want is something that you don’t have to constantly update.

    We’re working hard…give us another try and let me know what would make it better. (And check out our cool new Stats page!)

  3. Zoli Erdos says:

    Stan, that was fast, and I absolutely agree. If you can link to my feeds, it’s better than a one-time shot. I’ll check it:-)

  4. Zoli Erdos says:

    Stan, I have to agree, you have powerful options to define the input. I got kicked out at the account creation process though… so I don’t know where I am :-(

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